House, the Woodson Art Museum’s 37th Master Artist, will receive the Master Wildlife Artist Medal during the “Birds in Art” opening, Saturday, September 8.
In announcing the 2018 Master, director Kathy Kelsey Foley said, “Cindy House has developed a style all her own that reflects her love of the natural world as well as her consummate artistry. Her elegant landscapes are captivating; her compositions draw the viewer in to explore nature’s beauty and its avian inhabitants. Cindy’s selection as the 2018 Master Artist adds depth and distinction to the roster of artists previously honored. We welcome her with great enthusiasm.”
Selected for inclusion in “Birds in Art” twenty-six times since 1981, her first year in the exhibition, House attended exhibition-opening festivities twenty-three of those years.
“My life has always been centered around birds and bird art,” House said. “To be named Master Artist by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is a tremendous honor. It validates my life’s work. To have my art celebrated, together with those of the Museum’s Past Masters whose works I have long held in such high esteem, is a dream come true.”
House’s exquisite pastel landscapes appear – by design – to be oil paintings and feature sweeping vistas of avian habitats. Her style and choice of medium evolved as she discovered her life’s passion in pastels. House developed and refined a method throughout more than twenty-five years as her work gained increasingly wider recognition and appreciation. About a dozen Cindy House artworks will comprise her 2018 “Birds in Art” Master Artist grouping.
Born in 1952 in Providence, Rhode Island, House grew up in that state’s coastal town of Bristol and often accompanied her mother – a natural history teacher and photographer – into the woods, fields, and along the shorelines to observe nature. While working at a local bird sanctuary during high school, she developed an interest in art and later received her bachelor of science degree in wildlife biology from the University of Maine in 1975.
House began as a bird-book illustrator working in watercolor, a career she credits Birds in Art with helping to launch. Editors, seeking an artist to work on illustrations for a new National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, attended Birds in Art opening festivities in 1981, House’s first year in the exhibition. “Impressed by my work, they called me a week later,” House said. “From then on, to be accepted into Birds in Art was an annual goal for me.”
Visiting Wausau for the exhibition’s openings “gave me the opportunity to view varying approaches to depicting birds that I would never have seen otherwise,” she said.
By the late 1980s, House was seeking a new direction and was inspired by an exhibition of American Impressionist William Merritt Chase’s work during a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. “His landscapes so moved me that I had one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments in life and realized what I would like to do with my art,” she said. “First, I wanted to develop my pastels to look like oils. Second, where Chase had painted people within his landscapes, I would paint birds, albeit small ones.”
After she and her husband moved to Vermont, idyllic scenery further fueled her passion for painting landscapes. There, she developed her technique, which she now continues in New Hampshire. Working on sanded pastel paper, House uses pastels to create an under-painting washed with turpentine and then layers and blends pastels, adding more detail with each layer. Birds are drawn last, using small pieces of pastel and pastel pencils.
Besides helping to launch her career, “Birds in Art also contributed to my search for a new medium; one where I could express myself in a manner that was comfortable yet demanding,” House said. “I eventually found my life’s passion in pastels and it was at Birds in Art where they first found an audience.”
House also found a community of artists via Birds in Art. “A world of talented artists, many of whom have become dear friends, helped me continue to challenge myself and move forward with my work,” House said. “None of these amazing things would have happened without the support and devotion of the Woodson family and the remarkable staff of the Museum who have supported and encouraged me throughout the years.”
House’s artwork has been featured in solo exhibitions in Boston, Connecticut, and Ohio, in many group exhibitions throughout the United States and in England, and is in the collections of the Woodson Art Museum, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Smithfield; the Museum of American Bird Art, Canton, Massachusetts; and the New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut. She is a Master Pastelist in the Pastel Society of America, a member of the Master Circle in the International Association of Pastel Societies, and a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artist.
The 2018 “Birds in Art” exhibition, on view September 8 through November 25, will feature a selection of House’s artwork along with more than 100 original paintings, sculptures, and graphics created within the last three years by artists from throughout the world. The exhibition’s full-color catalogue, featuring an essay about the 2018 Master Artist, will be available for purchase in September at the Woodson Art Museum.
Top photo: The 2018 “Birds in Art” Master Artist Cindy House will be honored this fall during the Woodson Art Museum’s 43rd annual “Birds in Art” exhibition, opening Saturday, September 8, in Wausau, Wisconsin. A New England artist and naturalist with a wildlife biology degree from the University of Maine, Cindy discovered her life’s passion for pastels when she was inspired by a William Merritt Chase exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 1987 that featured pastel work from his summers at Shinnecock Hills, NY.